Sri Lanka stands by its dud commission, UN interested in its progress
[TamilNet, Saturday, 19 June 2010, 02:12 GMT]
When United Nation's Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe announced Thursday the imminent appointment of advisory panel to advise Ban Ki Moon on the alleged war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the last stages of the war, Colombo toned down its rhetoric with Media Minister pontificating, "it is best to allow the locally appointed commission to do its work prior to involving international actors or taking further unwarranted actions." Pascoe, while asserting that Sri Lanka's President has assured him that the local "reconciliation panel" will be "credible and accountable," said "[w]e will be interested in its progress."
While Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella insisted that Sri Lanka's "Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission" had a mandate to look into all aspects of the conflict and the reasons and root causes of the conflict, and that the terms of reference of this committee are wide enough to address any alleged war crimes charges," UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston said the Commission's mandate was deliberately designed to avoid examinining critical war crimes issues and noted that "Sri Lanka has an unparalleled track record of ineffectual commissions of inquiry of this kind."
Alston in an interview with Daily Mirror pointed to an article on the website of the Ministry of Defence which said the purpose of the commission was “to find out the root causes of the terrorist problem."
"There is not a single mention of “human rights," “humanitarian law," “violations," “war crimes," or any comparable term. The mandate accorded by the Government very carefully avoids any of these issues. Instead, the President has indicated that the Commission should look forward, which is generally a way of saying that past violations should be ignored. Consistent with this he has spoken of restorative justice designed to further strengthen national amity, which is another way of making the same point. Even if the mandate were to be changed, the question would then be whether the commission meets international standards for a credible inquiry into alleged human rights violations,” Alston said.
Cautious words of Pascoe, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and US Ambassador to UN, Susan E. Rice, have given some political space to Sri Lanka's "Lessons Learned" commission to soften cries of war-crimes investigation for a few months, but the UN, US officials' words are inherently dangerous, according to a UN spokesperson.
Pointing to Dr Rice's statement: "[T]o be effective in advancing accountability and reconciliation, commission members should be and be perceived as independent, impartial and competent; their mandate should enable them fully to investigate serious allegations of violations and to make public recommendations; commission members and potential witnesses must enjoy adequate and effective protection; the commission must receive adequate resources to carry out its mandate; and the Government should undertake to give serious consideration to its recommendations," the UN official told Inner City Press, "Colombo will never meet the expectations."
While UN was accused of hiding casualty figures on the ground, one of UN's former spokesperson who had access to the ground war details said close to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the war.
12.02.10 Sri Lanka massacred up to 40,000 Tamil civilians – former UN..